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Illinois State Water Survey News: January 2021

The Illinois State Water Survey conducts state-of-the-art research and collects, analyzes, archives, and disseminates high-quality, objective data and technical information, providing a sound technical basis for the citizens and policymakers of Illinois to make decisions. ISWS is a division of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI).

stream in winter

The Water Survey is collaborating with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources-Office of Water Resources and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct hydrologic and hydraulic modeling in Massac County as part of a study to help local communities identify areas of high flood risk for flood mitigation planning.

Recently funded projects
  • Assessing the Influence of the IDOT East St. Louis Dewatering Project on Contaminant Plume Migration (PI Tyler Pierson): For more than 30 years, ISWS has assisted the Illinois Department of Transportation with large-capacity interstate roadway dewatering wells. ISWS will use its more than 30 years’ of water level data associated with the dewatering project to develop a flow model. Funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Continued Long-Term Monitoring of Water Levels in the Mahomet Aquifer in Champaign County, 2020-2023 (PI Dan Hadley): The Mahomet aquifer is the major water source for east central Illinois. The municipal water supply for Champaign-Urbana is served by Illinois American Water-Champaign (IAWC) division, a company that operates wells open to the Mahomet aquifer. Since 2007, the Water Survey has worked with IAWC to install monitoring wells around the IAWC production wellfield and throughout Champaign County and outfit those monitoring wells with telemetry systems to report water levels in real-time. This effort will continue monitoring to track water levels in response to IAWC activities, seasonal changes from irrigation within Champaign County, climate patterns, and other stresses on the aquifer. Funded by Illinois American Water
  • Groundwater Quality Assessment and Continuation of Long-term Monitoring, Sugar Grove (PI Dan Hadley): The Water Survey will continue monitoring shallow groundwater in Sugar Grove Township in Kane County. Shallow groundwater is increasingly relied upon for water needs due to growth and development in the township. The project will also establish baseline water quality conditions in the shallow aquifers, principally chloride levels, by sampling domestic wells and monitoring wells. Funded by the Sugar Grove Water Authority 
  • Joliet Levee Flood Risk Assessment (PI Aaron Thomas): The effective regulatory flood insurance rate map (FIRM) for Joliet shows the risk of flooding from the Des Plaines River. Joliet plans to construct a levee system to reduce the risk of flooding and is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Chicago District, Rempe-Sharpe and Associates, and the Water Survey to identify overland flooding scenarios and evaluate at-risk buildings. The Water Survey will determine the floodplain boundaries resulting from overland flooding from the Des Plaines River through the east side of Joliet with a two-dimensional unsteady-state hydraulic analysis, using the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center River Analysis System. This model will be based on the ISWS model recently used to update the FIRM for Joliet, but the results of this analysis will not support changes to effective regulatory flood mapping. The 2D model will compute multiple-frequency Water Surface Elevation Grids and Depth Grids that represent the various flooding conditions that could arise in Joliet, and these will be used by USACE as input into the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center Flood Damage Reduction Analysis software to determine damages to buildings in the area caused by flooding. The flood damage assessment will be used by USACE to assist in determining the feasibility of constructing a levee to significantly reduce the likelihood of flooding. Funded by the city of Joliet
  • The Private Well Class (PI Steve Wilson): This award continues federal funding for ISWS to lead  the Private Well Class program, which provides online and in-person training to boost knowledge and competency for well owners and environmental health, cooperative extension, and water well professionals. Funded by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership through a grant from the U.S. EPA
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Through its long history, the Water Survey’s collection and analysis of water samples from precipitation, lakes, rivers, and streams have informed decisions  about water quality and water resources management. Ongoing projects in watershed science continue to contribute to long-term databases and tackle tough challenges.

Recent projects include sampling sewer water to look for traces of COVID-19, part of a collaborative effort with University of Illinois colleagues, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department, and Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District. 

In another multi-year project, ISWS scientists are collecting nutrient and suspended sediment from the Sangamon River, Long Creek, and Friends Creek to help the city of Decatur develop a watershed management plan to address nitrate and suspended sediment issues in the Lake Decatur watershed.

Read more about Watershed Science projects


The Water Survey’s Health and Environmental Applications Laboratory (HEAL) provides chemical analysis services to support better understanding of our water resources. HEAL supports state institutions, communities, and people in Illinois and beyond.

One of the services HEAL provides is water quality analysis for surface and drinking waters, which is particularly important for the thousands of Illinoisans whose drinking water comes from private wells rather than public water supplies.

HEAL’s expertise includes wet deposition chemistry; water supply and well water analyses; and analysis of fresh water, drinking water, and brine samples.

Learn more about the HEAL team and their work


In 2018, Joliet assessed its long-term water supply and determined that the city should change its water supply source, the deep Cambrian-Ordovician Sandstone aquifer, by 2030. A three-year follow-up study has been initiated with a collaboration among scientists from the Water Survey and multiple communities and industries in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. This report summarizes the findings from the first year of the study

ISWS virtual events

Jan. 20: Well Care 101 - What you need to know to protect your family
Feb. 11: Is my water safe to drink? Common questions about private wells
Feb. 18: Private well assessment and outreach for EHPs (4-hour workshop)
Mar. 9: What environmental health professionals need to know about private wells

ISWS employment opportunities

The Water Survey is seeking to hire up to two environmental public health professionals. The focus is on applied research related to groundwater, water quality, and private wells. Apply by Jan. 31! 

Other available positions:


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